DALLAS — Brazos County plans to take bids for $55 million of unlimited tax bonds Tuesday to fund construction of a new jail.

The new facility, which will house both minimum-security and maximum-security prisoners, will be built next to the current jail and nearly double the county’s capacity to 960 beds.

In November, voters in county, which includes the cities of Bryan and College Station, approved the bonds. County officials also plan to issue $8 million of certificates of obligation later this year. Texas A&M University, with roughly 46,500 students, is based in College Station.

Budget officer Irene Jett said the county’s inmate population has risen in tandem with the overall population gains of the past 10 to 20 years and the need for a jail expansion is evident. Earlier this year, the county received variances from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to house inmates in a direct-supervision housing unit and add additional beds to deal with overcrowding.

“There’s a direct correlation in the increases in the number of inmates and the tremendous growth the county has experienced,” said county sheriff Chris Kirk. “This expansion should give us the bed capacity for a population of about 218,000.”

The county’s current population of about 170,500 is an increase of nearly 12% since 2000. Brazos County’s fiscal 2008 taxable assessed value of nearly $8.8 billion is more than double the $4.23 billion a decade ago.

Insurance for the debt will be at bidder’s option. The bonds, which are structured as serials with final maturity in 2028, are secured by the ad valorem property taxes collected by the county.

Public Financial Management Inc. is the financial adviser to the county and Winstead PC is bond counsel.

Dennis Waley, senior managing consultant at PFM, said he expects numerous bidders for the debt.

Standard & Poor’s assigned a AA rating to the issue and said the outlook is stable.

Analysts said the rating reflects the county’s economy that is “somewhat diversified in agribusiness, computer manufacturing, mineral production, and education,” sustained property-tax base growth and diversification, and “consistently strong financial performance with high fund balances.”

Mitigating credit factors include a moderate debt burden and adequate wealth and income levels. The county will have about $100 million of outstanding debt following Tuesday’s sale.

Despite a $737,000 drawdown last year for capital costs, the county finished fiscal 2007 with an unreserved general-fund balance of $28 million, or 58% of expenditures. And officials have maintained a fund balance in excess of 40% of expenditures during each of the past six fiscal years, according to Standard & Poor’s.

Neither Fitch Ratings nor Moody’s Investors Service assigned a rating to the next week’s sale. 

 

 

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